General Mills shuffles execs as part of restructuring

Dive Brief:

  • General Mills Chairman and CEO Jeff Harmening announced a series of new leadership assignments as part of the company’s Accelerate growth strategy at the virtual BMO Global Farm to Market conference last week. These include putting Dana McNabb, the company’s former Europe and Australia president, into the new position of chief strategy and growth officer. Those two geographic divisions will now fall under the leadership of Asia and Latin America President Sean Walker. 
  • Harmening said the reorganization is now in progress over the rest of the company and more details will come out within the next month. He stressed this is “not simply a cost-cutting exercise,” but the reorganization is freeing up resources to redeploy them to more growth-facing areas.
  • This restructuring effort involving executive jobs was first disclosed through a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission earlier this month. Prior to Harmening’s presentation last week, not much had been said publicly about the changes. Global Chief Marketing Officer Ivan Pollard left General Mills as a part of this restructuring, and the company is not seeking a replacement.

Dive Insight:

Before the pandemic, Harmening said at his presentation at the virtual Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference in February, General Mills had come up with its Accelerate strategy. The company had already aligned its 35,000 employees behind this strategy, he said, and had built positive momentum for its business before the pandemic’s disruption.

Now that the United States seems to be coming out on the other side of the pandemic, it would appear the Accelerate strategy is accelerating. Counting the four leadership shifts Harmening mentioned in his presentation last week, there have been five high profile position changes under the new strategy.

Harmening described McNabb’s new position as having the responsibility for key growth capabilities and strategic initiatives to move the strategy forward. Another new position created as part of Accelerate is that of chief transformation and enterprise services officer, which Harmening said is responsible for enterprise transformation initiatives and managing global shared service functions. This job will be filled by former Chief Supply Chain Officer John Church, whose former position is being filled by former North American supply chain head Paul Gallagher, Harmening said.

Meanwhile, two rather big positions seem to be getting eliminated: global chief marketing officer and president of Europe and Australia. Both changes signify major shifts in company thinking. Among major corporations, the position of global CMO has made a comeback in recent years. Some argued the pandemic, which resulted in the need for companies to unify their brand vision across platforms, solidified the need for this C-suite position. By uniting all of the company’s non-North American major divisions under one company president, it appears to signify more of a concentration on the North American markets, which Harmening said at CAGNY represents roughly 80% of the company’s total net sales.

As announced in February, the Accelerate strategy has four pillars: building purpose-driven brands that meet consumers where they are; innovating to create new solutions to consumer problems and get those products to market quickly; using scale to create competitive advantage through data, supply chain efficiency and e-commerce; and working toward environmental and social sustainability. The strategy also allocates large investments and resources to five platforms that represented about 45% of sales last year: cereal, pet food, ice cream, snack bars and Mexican food. 

From what Harmening said about the new strategy last week, it also sounds like the Accelerate strategy will have significant financial benefits to the company. Those, he said, are likely to be made clear in a future filing with the SEC. But the more important reason to do it is to align resources with General Mills’ current priorities.

“Creating a strategy and growth organization to continue to reshape our portfolio will be important to make sure that we’re putting our resources behind the things that are more important, and to kind of elevate the things that we think are going to make the biggest difference ahead of us, specifically as we look at e-commerce and data and analytics and and strategic revenue management,” Harmening said last week.

Aside from personnel changes, General Mills has been active in M&A to reshape its portfolio to work toward this strategy. In March, the company announced it had sold its 51% stake in the European Yoplait business to Sodiaal in exchange for complete ownership of Yoplait and Liberté branded yogurt in the U.S. and Canada. Earlier this month, General Mills bought Tyson Foods’ pet treats business for $1.2 billion.

“Both those things combined, you know, really enhance our growth exposure and the profitability of our business,” Harmening said last week. “In any number of ways, we’ll end this pandemic as a stronger company than when we started.”